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Cities are amazing places with limitless opportunities, problems, challenges and sources of ideas…

Meet Tigran Haas, Associate Professor at KTH, Director of International Research Centre CFP, Associate Director for Seminars and Member of the Executive Committee at Digital Futures.

Hi Tigran, you just joined the Executive Committee of Digital Futures – describe your role at Digital Futures?

– My role will be to oversee the excellent seminar series already present in the Digital Futures. I will build upon the different types of academic conversations present but will also come up with new proposals for online meetings in terms of expert panels, 1:1 dialogues and probably rebranding the existing formats so it fits better with the needs of the public. The current landscape of online seminars is almost saturated with a plethora of meetings and formats and conferences of all kinds. Digital Futures need to find its niche in these academic conversations – currently online and later in-house – that will reflect the inter-and multidisciplinary nature of Digital Futures as well as of inventing the future, reflecting the current projects and research programs and offering something which cannot be found elsewhere.

Tell us a bit about your long-time experience in research and what motivates you as a researcher?

– It is a rollercoaster and endless carousel of ideas that constantly grow, mature and replace each other. The infinite possibilities of finding common answers to problems in society from a humanistic and applied social science research spectra and then merging them or reflecting them upon the hard-core data and urban science quantitative approaches are something extremely exciting. Also finding lacunas –  research gaps- in research on cities, urban planning & design is a rewarding thing. Individual ideas on the edge, imagination and intellectual curiosity, good project group collaboration and the creation of long-lasting international research networks are what guide me. And last but not least excellence and professionalism at every step.

In your profile, you state that your research and teaching focus on contemporary trends and paradigms in urban planning & design, new urbanism, sustainable urbanism, social housing and urban transformations, and city development, ageing society, design and medialization of urban form. Where does this interest come from?

– As I have multiple backgrounds – bachelor, master and PhD work – in architecture, urban planning and urban design, environmental science, regional science and also then combined with post-doc work on digital and network society at MIT, sustainable transportation at Berkeley and urbanism paradigms at Michigan University. It made me realize the importance of macro, meso and micro scales; understanding different scales in regions, cities and neighbourhoods and all the complex elements that are part of urbanism.

Also, through the leadership and research in the Centre for the future of places the last five years I have been directly exposed to environmental psychology, urban social geography, urban economics, urban politics and landscape urbanism, all additional keys to understanding the main issues and problems in cities – especially concerning our primary focus on public spaces and urban places.

You have written a number of articles, papers and books, teach and supervise PhD students and are involved in several research projects, have run an international master’s program and a research centre. From where do you get your energy? What motivates you?

– My academic work motto is the “5P”s: Passion, Perseverance, Professionalism, Persuasion and Playfulness. I like and thrive in multitasking but also bring elements of improvisation, fast decisions and innovation into everyday work. I was teaching eight years of project and strategic management and leadership which has helped quite a lot. It also taught me how to work with people and also which persons to avoid.

I like constant challenges, ideas coming through, inspiring colleagues and curious students, transforming cities and people as well as urban places and public realms with all their complexity. Cities are amazing places with limitless opportunities, problems, challenges and sources of ideas and therefore it all gives me renewed energy to do work in this field and also to work with similar oriented and minded people. After running the Centre for the Future of Places – CFP – for five years, I am looking forward to forming and leading perhaps a second research lab in my career, a city research lab called Halcyon Athenaeum Laboratory where a new start and a whole new array of urban ideas will happen – I sincerely hope so!

Finally, tell us a little bit about yourself!

– I see myself as a combination of different “city of bits”, persons of different bits: Walter Mitty, Peter Pan, George Clooney, Richard Florida, Steve Jobs, Mother Theresa, Bill Maher. I like to take on challenges every now and then, sometimes rushing into things with too much passion and flame & fire.

As Condoleezza Rice once said, if you want to know me you need to know my parents. And I think I got both of them inside of me very much, and they are the two most important individuals in my life and most importantly, two very fine people that have taught me how to be a good person. My late dad who was a professor of theoretical physics and philosophy of science has been my life’s mentor.

Also, I get into a lot of stress continuously and meditation, ambient music, good wine, reading books, using the free-flowing imagination, enjoying good companionships and building social capital outside work is crucial to combat loneliness and stress. Unfortunately, there is no cookie-cutter solution and this is a never-ending struggle to find work-life balance and one has to do the best she or he can. Finally, I like to run things, where I have the ability to learn from the past and from mistakes; friends and colleagues always say I have strong communication and social skills and that I built strong sustainable relationships on all levels; all of which I see as the vital traits that every entrepreneur or CEO or lab director should possess.

Link to the profile of Tigran Haas


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